Even before the wave of articles the last few days suggesting that Texas is less likely to trade Michael Young than to keep him, we learned a bunch of things in the immediate aftermath of the big story, which initially painted a no-turning-back picture with the only variable being which team Young would be traded to.
We learned that the Rockies, long thought to be the team most interested in acquiring Young and perhaps the best fit - maybe even close to a deal a month and a half ago for "a pair of solid prospects" or utility player Eric Young Jr. (says Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post) - were backing out of talks with the Rangers, who reportedly stepped up their demands (and unwillingness to compromise on the money or players) once Vladimir Guerrero went off the market. Renck believes the Rangers' ask (without getting into the amount of cash that would go to Colorado) could now involve center fielder Dexter Fowler, or "a top young pitcher" like Tyler Matzek or Christian Friedrich, none of whom are likely even remotely up for discussion.
We've also learned that, based on the most optimistic reports out of Colorado, the Rockies are now waiting to see if the Rangers change their minds once staring at the prospect of kicking off full-squad camp workouts (on February 20) with a disgruntled Young.
And that the Dodgers wanted Texas to take on 75 percent of the $48 million owed to Young, killing any chance at a deal.
And that the Angels weren't a good match and not all that interested in pursuing talks, because of who it would take for the Rangers to trade him within the division.
And that there was "zero chance" of a deal with the payroll-conscious Twins, even though the two teams had discussed Young in previous years.
And that neither the money nor the cost in players made sense for the Padres, another of the eight teams exempted from Young's no-trade clause.
And that the Cardinals don't really see a roster need for Young, which is also the case with the Yankees.
And that while a Carlos Lee-for-Young trade might make some sense for the Astros, it may not interest Texas, or Lee, who has either a full no-trade clause or one that allows him to block deals to 14 clubs (depending on the source), but in either case would permit him to veto a deal to the Rangers.
And that beyond those eight teams to which Young can't block a trade, Detroit and Philadelphia would seem to have roster fits but aren't interested, even if they "briefly . . . kicked the tires" (which you can bet most clubs did, as part of what routinely goes on between GM's, all the time). Seattle has confirmed a lack of interest. There are articles from the Oakland and Toronto press setting up and knocking down the idea of a deal with Texas, and some centered on the Mets and Cubs and White Sox and Brewers being realistic matches, and if you look hard enough you can probably find similar stories (of one kind or the other, or both) in just about every other club's market, too.
There are plenty of reasons to accept that Texas is probably not going to trade Young. There's the contract, the partial no-trade clause, and what amounts to the opposite of a no-trade clause (the player pushing for a deal and the club declining to go through with one). But there's another key factor.
Forget about roster fit for a second. What kind of team is going to sit down internally and grind out a conversation about whether Michael Young is a player to go and get, while he's available? A contender, or a club that thinks it's on the brink (and maybe one key player short) of contending.
OK, that doesn't narrow the field too much. A player like Young doesn't really make a lot of sense for Arizona, for Cleveland, for Washington, for Pittsburgh. But there are at least 20 teams who probably think of themselves right now as having a realistic shot to make some noise this season.
That sets things up pretty well when you're Kansas City trading Zack Greinke, Seattle trading Cliff Lee, Cleveland trading Victor Martinez, Oakland trading Dan Haren, Florida trading Miguel Cabrera or Josh Beckett, Texas trading Mark Teixeira.
But the clear difference between this Rangers club and that group of teams is that Texas, like the organizations you'd expect might be interested in adding Young to their lineup, expects to win right now. Which leads to the obvious point: Even setting aside the significant money aspect of this situation, the types of players the Rangers will want are exactly the types of players contending teams won't want to trade - those who can make an impact in 2011. And the types of assets that teams interested in Young are likely to offer the Rangers - second-tier prospects or role players - aren't going to make Texas better right now, which the organization's decision-makers insist is what it will take to convince them to make a trade.
The conundrum gets even stickier late in the winter, not to mention as spring training gets underway, as the pickings in the free agent market to plug up holes that such a trade would leave (for either team) have become drearily slim.
There are exceptions. There are contenders willing to trade core veterans because of money (Minnesota and Johan Santana, Toronto and Roy Halladay) or because they were able to improve immediately by doing so (Philadelphia and Lee, New York and Alfonso Soriano) - and in fact the Santana and Soriano (A-Rod) trades were made in February. In that vein, if there's anything to these (apparently media-generated) rumors about Minnesota (which is not on Young's no-trade list) thinking about shopping lefthander Francisco Liriano, who can be a free agent two years from now, then maybe we're onto something, right?
Don't count on it. Even though Tom Pelissero (1500 ESPN/Twin Cities) passes on a sourced report that the Yankees and Rangers "top the list of potential suitors [for Liriano] and the deal could happen ‘anytime' - although the Twins are willing to wait for the right package," Minnesota would be crazy to trade the 27-year-old lefthander for an older player, and Minnesota isn't crazy. Liriano, if put on the market, would fetch the type of package that Texas gave up for Lee and Milwaukee gave up for Greinke and Arizona gave up for Haren. You're not going to get Liriano for Young, even if you threw in the entire $48 million freight.
Now, if the Twins really were prepared to move Liriano now (July would be more likely), and Texas were willing to put together some sort of Martin Perez/Jurickson Profar/Miguel De Los Santos type of package, and that turned out to be enough to convince Minnesota to pull the trigger - then is it conceivable that the trade gets expanded to include Young and a significant amount of cash? I guess. But from the Twins' standpoint, the idea of a trade centered on Liriano and Young is a non-starter.
Would Texas take prospects back for Young, even if it meant the big league club would be weakened (by reducing depth and amplifying the anticipated role for a player like Mike Napoli)? I guess, but probably only if the prospect(s) were potential system-altering difference-makers, and that's not happening (if at all) unless the Rangers kick in a massive amount of money to cover most of Young's contract, which just doesn't make a ton of sense.
And a quick thought on the idea that Young is so determined to move on that his partial no-trade clause isn't a real impediment and that the field of suitors shouldn't be viewed as just eight (even though a deal with one of them would be "cleaner," as Jon Daniels has put it). Are things so fractured here, in his mind, that he'd really want to play second base or third base somewhere else? I'm not sure how important his age 37 contract is to him, but if it is, he's probably in the best place he could be as far as offensive productivity is concerned.
The only park where Young has had a significant number of plate appearances and a better OPS (in fact, break it down - a better batting average, a better on-base, a better slug) than in Texas is in Houston, where I'd imagine he doesn't really want to be? Objectively speaking - that is, setting aside his history here with these teammates and this manager and this community and the success this club is having - if Young were a free agent today, wouldn't Texas be the best place for him to lock in for the next three years, setting up maybe one more contract after that?
But again, I'm not sure things even get to a point where Young is asked to approve a deal to a club on his no-trade list. It's reasonable to assume that when the Rangers get loose as a full squad this time one week from today, aiming to defend their American League title, Michael Young will be right in the middle of things, back for his 11th spring training with the club - not only for the combination of reasons that have been tossed around by local columnists and talk show hosts the last few days:
1. The money Texas would have to kick in.
2. Young's partial no-trade clause.
3. The Rangers' refusal to entertain any trade that doesn't make the club better.
. . . but also one more:
4. Even if money were not a factor . . . and even if there were not a no-trade clause to maneuver around . . . and even if Texas was committed to not impairing the club by trading Young . . . contending teams, especially at this point on the calendar, aren't going to give up the types of players that the Rangers, expecting to win themselves in 2011, are going to insist on.
You just don't see spring training trades like Kenny Lofton and Alan Ambree for David Justice and Marquis Grissom very often.